Decision Day is finally upon us. The last day of the MLS season. They day when all 11 games featuring the 22 teams across the league kick off at the same time. The day playoff spots are secured and seeding is finalized. They day our very own Ian tries not to die from GIF overload.
All but one of the playoff spots are secured. We know the six teams in the East and five of the six teams in the West whose seasons will continue. Three teams will fight for the final playoff spot: San Jose Earthquakes, Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas. Who will find their way into the postseason? Who will be the #1 team in the West? Does any of it really matter if MLS Cup goes through Toronto? Well, at least we’ll find out the answers to most of these questions on Decision Day!
If you can’t figure out which game to tune in to, ESPN will have a “whiparound show” showing all the key highlights from each game starting at 4:00PM ET.
Best game of the week: Portland Timbers v. Vancouver Whitecaps – Sunday, October 22, 4:00PM ET, MLS Live
There were a few options for game of the week, but if we’re being honest it has to be this one. Not only is it a rivalry game, but it will decide which of these two teams will win the West. Mathematically, it has to be one of these two teams. Vancouver currently leads the West at 52 points, while Portland is just behind them at 51. A win or a draw for Vancouver keeps the Whitecaps atop the West, while a Timbers win gives PTFC the #1 seed. The Timbers are fantastic at Providence Park, where they’ve only lost twice all year. The Timbers have won both of the previous matchups this year 2-1, one at Providence Park and one at BC Place. Don’t be surprised if we see another 2-1 Timbers victory in this game.
Worst game of the week: Philadelphia Union v. Orlando City SC – Sunday, October 22, 4:00PM ET, MLS Live
This is one of only two games between two teams that have been eliminated from playoff contention. On top of that, Kaka isn’t even playing for Orlando City after recently announcing he won’t return to OCSC next year. These two clubs are tied at 39 points, good enough for ninth and tenth in the East. There’s not much to play for between these two clubs except pride and building for the future. Both Union coach Jim Curtin and OCSC coach Jason Kreis have been on the hot seat this year. Will one or both be back next year? Only time will tell, but fans of both sides have seen just about enough of their respective coaches.
Sunday, October 22
Atlanta United FC v. Toronto FC – 4:00PM ET, MLS Live
Might this be a preview of the Eastern Conference finals? ATLUTD fans would have you think so. I’m less sure. Yes, Atlanta has been dominant at home in their new stadium, but MLS playoffs are an entirely different beast. They’ll be playing on short rest with lots of travel. They’ll be going against some of the best teams in MLS. If the standings hold as they are now, ATL would host Columbus in a knockout round game, who have been one of the best teams in MLS as of late and are on a nine-game unbeaten run. Toronto has already secured the Supporters’ Shield, but don’t think they have nothing to play for. TFC is only one point shy of breaking the all-time single season points record. You don’t think they want to take sole possession of that record? TFC will come out hot trying to go into the postseason on a high note. What better way than beating one of the cockier teams in MLS while simultaneously becoming the most successful regular season MLS team of all time?
D.C. United v. New York Red Bulls – 4:00PM ET, MLS Live
Goodbye RFK. You will be missed. Kinda. Well, maybe not right away. We’re all glad on some level to see you go. D.C. United desperately needs a new stadium. But, there is plenty of history at the historic stadium, and RBNY will be proud to be a part of the send-off game for this historic venue. Unfortunately, D.C. United is eliminated from playoff contention and has nothing really to play for, other than one more happy memory at their home of 21 years. The Red Bulls are locked into the sixth seed in the East, so they’re really going to be using this as a tune-up for the postseason. DCU lost once and drew once to RBNY at Red Bull Arena. I think they’ll have one more happy memory to end their time at RFK, though, and end the season earning the final three points in the RFK era.
Montreal Impact v. New England Revolution – 4:00PM ET, MLS Live
This is the other game featuring two non-playoff teams. Not much to look forward to in this one, either. New England is in seventh and Montreal is in eighth, both of them already mathematically eliminated from the postseason. Montreal lost the lone match between these two teams in September at Gillette Stadium. If I were a betting man, I’d probably take the Impact since New England hasn’t won a single game on the road this year. But, strange things happen in MLS sometimes, so who knows?
New York City (Citi?) FC v. Columbus Crew SC – 4:00PM ET, MLS Live
Oh, NYCFC. You so desperately need your own stadium, don’t you? Thankfully NYC fans won’t have to travel 200 miles to see a “home” game this time, but they will have to travel to Citi Field, home of the Mets. Apparently four days isn’t enough time to convert Yankee Stadium into a soccer field, so once again NYCFC are treated like the odd-stepchild they sort of are. It’s bad timing for NYCFC, too, because this is actually an important game. They’re trying to keep hold of the #2 seed and that coveted first round bye week, but Columbus is entering the game on a nine-match unbeaten streak. NYCFC’s best hope is that Columbus is distracted due to all of the relocation talk surrounding Columbus (which is terrible, by the way… Precourt should be ashamed of himself). Columbus could technically finish as high as #2 with a win and Chicago and Atlanta losses, so the Crew will come out strong doing everything they can to upset New York City.
FC Dallas v. LA Galaxy – 4:00PM ET, MLS Live
FC Dallas might really miss the playoffs. I didn’t think this was possible even in the middle of their winless streak, but Dallas never was able to really get back on track. They currently are tied with San Jose at 43 points, but the Earthquakes own the tiebreaker. That means that even in FC Dallas defeat the Galaxy at home, they still may miss the playoffs since San Jose controls their own destiny. It would be sweet justice if FCD did miss out, in my opinion, because MLS should have docked them a point for their illegal substitution of Michael Barrios a few weeks back. I bet MLS sure hopes FCD loses, too, because the last thing they need is FCD edging RSL by one point and an angry Mike Petke having Trey pass ‘em out again to show why RSL should be ahead of the cheating FC Dallas. It’s all a moot point, though, if the Earthquakes do what they need to do.
Real Salt Lake v. Sporting Kansas City – 4:00PM ET, MLS Live
Sporting KC for a while were favorites to earn the #2 spot in the West and get a first round bye. Now, they’re just fighting for a home knockout game. SKC has only earned two points from their last four games, squashing any advantage they had due to games in hand. Technically SKC could still get a first round bye, but they would need to win on the road, have Portland lose at home to Vancouver and have Seattle lose at home to Colorado. That’s not a likely scenario. But, if Sporting get the job done at Rio Tinto, they’ll at worst host a home knockout round game. That would be better than the last two years, where SKC has lost on the road in the first round of the playoffs to the eventual MLS Cup champions Portland and Seattle respectively. RSL need to win and hope for some help from Minnesota and LA if they want to get to the postseason. If they do, though, the #3 team in the West better watch out. RSL has been one of the better teams in MLS since Petke took over, and I know I wouldn’t want to play them in a knockout round game.
San Jose Earthquakes v. Minnesota United FC – 4:00PM ET, MLS Live
Win and you’re in. It doesn’t get any simpler. That’s what San Jose is faced with now. Sure, they have a -22 goal differential. Yes, they would be by far the worst team in the playoffs. But, if you’re in, you’re in, and anything can happen. The Earthquakes are 9-2-5 at Avaya this year, and they’re facing a Minnesota team that’s only won three games on the road. The Earthquakes beat Minnesota 1-0 back in April on the road, so they know what to expect from this Loons team. Granted, MNUFC has gotten better and more confident as the season has gone on. I’m not quite sure what to expect from this game, to be honest, but I guess the home atmosphere gives the Earthquakes the edge.
Seattle Sounders FC v. Colorado Rapids – 4:00PM ET, MLS Live
The Sounders control their own destiny as far as a first round bye goes. Win, and they get the #2 seed regardless of what happens with Portland and Vancouver. They have to be feeling pretty good about their chances, too, hosting Colorado at Century Link where Seattle manhandled FC Dallas last week 4-0. Seattle is 10-1-5 at home while the tenth place Rapids are 1-13-2 on the road this year. The Sounders beat Colorado 3-1 at Dick’s Sporting Goods park in July, so who’s to say they won’t get another 4-0 shutout at home this week? The Rapids have only scored 31 goals this year, good enough for second to last in MLS. I just don’t see any way the Sounders don’t win and earn the first-round bye.
Houston Dynamo v. Chicago Fire – 4:00PM ET, MLS Live
This is a big game for both teams. Houston is trying to work their way into fourth or fifth to earn a home knockout round game. Chicago is trying to jump NYCFC for a first round bye. Both teams are coming off successful games, with Houston earning a big road point at SKC and Chicago beating the Union 3-2 last week. The good news for Houston is they have been pretty good at BBVA at 11-1-4. Chicago has been bad on the road, too, at only 4-8-4. The Fire are probably the more talented team, but Houston has turned their home stadium into a fortress of sorts despite never having big crowds. I’d be surprised if we see anything less than a draw, with a Houston win likely.
Hot take of the week:
Here are my projected final standings. Be sure to save them to tell me how wrong I was.
#1) Toronto FC
#3) Chicago Fire
#4) Atlanta United FC
#5) Columbus Crew SC
#6) New York Red Bulls
#1) Portland Timbers
#2) Seattle Sounders
#3) Vancouver Whitecaps
#4) Houston Dynamo
#5) Sporting Kansas City
#6) San Jose Earthquakes
GIF of the week: We may not have gotten his best years, but it was a treat to watch one of the all-time greats play in MLS. He will be missed.